TMJ pain makes it difficult for people who are affected to speak and eat.Fortunately, the condition, which affects over three million people, can be treated.The temporomandibular joint is a joint that acts like a hinge that connects the jawbone to the skull, with one on each side of the jaw. Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder…
What Is Bruxism?
Often referred to as teeth grinding, bruxism is a condition where a person clenches or grinds the teeth together. This behavior may occur when awake or asleep and is most common in children. Many people are unaware they have this issue, so understanding the causes and what symptoms to look for can help patients start a conversation with a dentist and get treatment.
Causes and symptoms
Learn the reasons why a person might develop bruxism and what symptoms an individual with this condition may have.
What causes bruxism?
People who grind the teeth during the day often do so without realizing it when feeling stressed or anxious. Children may clench teeth together to help soothe facial pain caused by teething or an ear infection. Sleep bruxism may be more prevalent during stressful periods but is often caused by chewing activities while asleep. There are several risk factors that can contribute to teeth grinding, including having a hyperactive or aggressive personality type, having jaw misalignment, taking psychiatric medications, drinking caffeine or alcohol, smoking or having a family history of the condition.
What are the symptoms?
While some people only clench the jaw on occasion and do not experience any noticeable complications, chronic teeth grinding can cause significant pain to the patient. Common complaints include jaw or face soreness, a tight or locked jaw, temple headaches, pain in the ears and tooth sensitivity. The sound from grating the teeth together can be loud enough for other people to hear, and the habit can be disruptive to the patient’s sleep. Severe bruxism may wear down the enamel of the teeth and lead to cracks or chips, and over time, the teeth may have a flattened appearance.
Evaluation and treatment
Chronic teeth grinding is often diagnosed by a dentist after examining the teeth for any signs of wear or after receiving complaints from a patient of consistent jaw or face pain. Since there is more than one cause of bruxism, the dentist will evaluate the situation and develop a unique treatment plan for the patient.
How is bruxism treated?
The factors contributing to a person’s teeth grinding is often multifaceted, so more than one treatment may be necessary to thoroughly address the issue. Patients who clench the jaw at night may be given a custom-fitted mouth guard to protect the teeth from further damage. If jaw misalignment is partly to blame, orthodontic treatment for correcting the patient’s bite may help reduce the behavior. Addressing stress and learning relaxing techniques can help patients learn more effective stress management. While there are no medications specifically for teeth grinding, muscle relaxants and Botox® injections may help.
Teeth grinding might not seem like a harmful behavior, but bruxism needs to be addressed by a dentist to prevent unnecessary damage to the teeth and to help the patient minimize jaw pain. While most dentists routinely check for signs and symptoms of the condition during regular appointments, patients should always mention any concerns about grinding or clenching the teeth together.
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